We have been working on quite a few things here at High Rock. Being a fast-growing firm, we all have quite the workload. Time management and prioritizing has been a focal point because it is easy to become overwhelmed when you have a giant list of to-dos to accomplish. We are also working hard to implement more monotasking and focus sessions into our weekly routines.
Notice that I did not mention multitasking. Multitasking is not a thing, so stop doing it. Science says so. Research suggests supertaskers’ existence, but with less than 2% of the population able to pull it off, it is not any of us.
What is this monotasking I mentioned? Monotasking is the practice of dedicating oneself to a given task and minimizing potential interruptions until the job is completed or a set amount of time has elapsed. By focusing on one task at a time, you can become more efficient and accomplish more pieces of your to-do list. When you think you are multitasking, you are actually just quickly shifting from one task to another. Research shows this drops your overall productivity by almost 40%. Those split-second increments where your brain is switching from one task to another add up. Multitasking also makes it more challenging to organize your thoughts and filter out irrelevant information, which also adds to inefficiency and lower work quality. A study at the University of London showed that multitasking causes our IQ to drop in a similar way skipping a night of sleep would. Have I convinced you yet to stop multitasking?
So how do you start down the path of monotasking and doing one thing at a time really well?
Turn off the notifications
There is a constant flow of notifications and distractions throughout the day. The Slack messages, the emails, client calls, your family or roommates in the background, the dog wanting your attention, etc. This is where focus sessions come into play. Block out a time where you are going to focus on one project or task. Then remove all the distractions. Turn off your Slack notifications, your email notifications, turn your phone on silent and face down on the desk, lock the office door, whatever is needed to create a quiet place to work. Then focus your attention on the one thing you are going to work on. At High Rock, any team member can post that they are in a focus session for a set amount of time, and the team knows they are unavailable until that session is over.
Block out your calendar
Schedule out your day to help maximize your time. Do you find yourself unable to get through items because you keep checking emails? Then block out two to three times a day that you will check your emails, and only do that during those scheduled times. Have a checklist of things to get through, then block out times for each item on your calendar for the day. Then only work on that task at the time you scheduled. This way, you make steady progress towards finishing instead of all over the place, not getting anything completed.
Take a break
Your brain needs breaks. When you schedule your time blocks, include time for yourself to reset before moving on to the next task or project. Take five minutes, stand up, walk away from your screen, and do not start working on other tasks during your break. Take a short walk, whether it is to your kitchen to get more water or a short walk outside and back. A Stanford study showed that taking a calculated break from our screens can lead to a clearer, more productive mindset.
Gain support from those around you
It helps to let those around you know what you are trying to do and gives you a bit of accountability to stick with your plan. Randomly just shutting down without communication is not the way to start down your monotasking path. Let your team know that you are setting up scheduled monotasking blocks of time and the expectations surrounding those. If you are working remotely, have a conversation with your family, so they understand the boundaries in place with your focus sessions.
If you have a brain like mine that spiderwebs out in all directions all the time or easily distracted by shiny things, monotasking can take some time to get used to. It becomes a mindfulness practice to set aside time to focus on only one task. However, the productivity boost that comes from monotasking is well worth the effort.